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Theatre / Done to Death

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Done to Death is a 1970 play written by Fred Carmichael. The plot focuses on five has-been Mystery Fiction writers who are brought to the mysterious Vulture's Vault to collaborate on and write a new murder mystery TV series. And then real murders start to happen and Hilarity Ensues.

The play is huge parody of the murder mystery genre as each writer has their own style that they use in hopes of figuring out the murders. The play often delves into fantasy sequences and Breaking the Fourth Wall.


The five writers are:

  • Jessica and Whitney Olive - A sophisticated, middle-aged yuppie couple who write charming, "pleasant murders". The two and their stories are a parody of Nick and Nora from The Thin Man.
  • Mildred Z. Maxwell - A friendly older woman who specializes in tough, detailed murder mysteries. A parody of Agatha Christie and Miss Marple.
  • Brad Benedict - The youngest of the authors, he writes "modern" high tech spy mysteries akin to James Bond. In contrast, he is mild-mannered and shy.
  • Rodney Duckton - The oldest of the authors, he is very energetic and enthusiastic. He initially wrote old silent horror movies before moving on to hard-hitting detective novels similar to The Maltese Falcon.

The other main characters are:

  • Jason Summers - A nervous business man in charge of the TV show the authors are writing for. His murder is what begins the main plot.
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  • Jane - A young and pretty maid who may not be as naive as she seems.
  • Gregory - The butler whose appearance is very similar to Dracula. He speaks with a Middle Eastern accent and has a very mysterious air.

There are numerous other characters who come and go, may or may not be real and basically serve to keep you guessing.

Not to be confused with the movie Murder by Death or the play The Butler Did It, which have very similar plots.


Tropes used in Done to Death include:

  • Alliterative Name: Vulture's Vault, Bradley Bruce Benedict. Mildred Maxwell can't stand it.
  • As You Know: In a rather gratuitous example the authors explain who the people are to the actual people. (Jessica explains who Brad is to Brad). Then Jason reintroduces all five. It arguably becomes Fridge Brilliance at the end of the story.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Parodied. Anyone who suspects that Jane is the murderer claims that she is using this trope to her advantage. Jess and Whit's fantasy is all about trying to prove this theory.
    • Played straight with The Girl and Stephanie Mildaur.
  • The Brainless Beauty: Jane, who is described as being as dumb as she is pretty. The Ingenue in Rodney's horror fantasy.
  • Brick Joke: "This kitchen is definitely salami."
    • "The knife slid out of his back as if it was sliding out of a wedge of camembert cheese."
    • Ungeuntine in the lipstick.
  • The Butler Did It: Discussed.
    Jessica: The servants? No, Mr. Club, the servants never do it anymore. That's passé.
  • The Casanova: Jack Club, Brad's characters. Parodied when Rodney attempts to play Jack Club in his fantasy, as he cannot seduce Jane the way Jack would be able to.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The Authors's ability to make their imaginations come to life is set up in Act 1 and then becomes very important as they investigate the murders in Act 2.
  • Fun with Acronyms
    Rodney: The organization always has initials that spell out a name. You've noticed that haven't you?
  • The Mole: Brad's fantasies are all about trying to find one.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The Secretary (who wears nothing but a bikini).
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. Rodney is horrified to discover that getting shot anywhere, even in a fantasy, really hurts and is lethal, as opposed to how he always has his characters shaking off injuries like they're nothing.
  • Only Sane Man: Jane is the only character who seems to care that people are dying.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The Authors are consistently surprised by things turning out realistically rather than how they would write it.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: The Olives and their martinis (or really alcohol in general).
    • The Olives also like, well, olives.
    • All the authors are fond of cheese.
  • Two-Act Structure: Act 1 is all about setting up the backstory and the author's styles (as well as their ability to make their imaginations come to life). Act 2 is all about solving the murders. A really major example of a Halfway Plot Switch.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: No one is fazed by the imagination scenes in Act 1, Scene 1. Later, Jane is frustrated that no one else is fazed by the murders.


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